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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Book Review: The Nightmarchers By J. Lincoln Fenn

The Nightmarchers
By J. Lincoln Fenn
October 1, 2018
Publisher: Gallery Books
In 1939, on a remote Pacific island, botanical researcher Irene Greer plunges off a waterfall to her death, convinced the spirits of her dead husband and daughter had joined the nightmarchers—ghosts of ancient warriors that rise from their burial sites on moonless nights. But was it suicide, or did a strange young missionary girl, Agnes, play a role in Irene's deteriorating state of mind?

It all seems like ancient family history to Julia Greer, who has enough problems of her own. A struggling journalist, she’s recovering from a divorce and is barely able to make rent, let alone appeal the court’s decision to give sole custody of their daughter to her ex-husband. When her elderly great-aunt offers her an outrageously large sum to travel to this remote island and collect samples of a very special flower, as well as find out what really happened to her sister Irene all those years ago, Julia thinks her life might finally be on an upward swing. She’s also tasked to connect with the island’s Church of Eternal Light, which her great-aunt suspects knows more about Irene’s tragic death than they’ve said.

But Julia finds this place isn’t so quick to give up its secrets. The Church is tight-lipped about the deaths that have contributed to its oddly large cemetery, as well as Irene’s final fate. The only person who seems to know more is a fellow traveler, Noah Cooper, who thinks that Julia's not the only one on a mission to find the rare flower...which, if the rumors are true, could have world-changing properties.

What Julia does know is that the longer she stays on the island, the more the thin line begins to blur between truth and lies, reality and the fantastical...until she finds herself face to face with the real reason why the island is taboo....

I got the arc from Netgalley.

The story begins not with the main character, Julia, but her great-aunt, Irene Greer. Irene went to study plant life on a remote Pacific island. It was also a chance for her to get away from memories of the deaths of her husband and child. Odd things begin to happen. Then she vanishes. The local missionaries tell her family that she had leaped off a waterfall after seeing the spirits of her dead daughter and husband marching along a beach with the Nightmarchers, ghosts of ancient warriors. (I liked this part of the book and Irene.)

The story forwards to the 21st century and the heroine, Julia Greer, married a rich man, Ethan, and had a daughter with him. Of course, at the time of the story, she lives in a rundown apartment off the freeway in Los Angeles and her ex is making sure she doesn’t get to see or have her daughter. This part of the story bothered me—not enough explanation why a woman who had been a great investigative reporter before her marriage would let a man like Ethan do what he did to her and why she let him or even signed the prenuptial without checking with a lawyer. Her great aunt, Lydia, and sister to Irene Greer who vanished on the island in 1939, is well off and invites her to visit. The old woman, who is a geneticist, offers her a fortune and possibly the custody of her daughter, if Julia will go to the remote and spooky island to retrieve Irene's body from the weirdo religious there and find and bring back a sample of an unusual flower. With the possible chance to get her daughter back, Julia takes the job and heads to the island, where those who can afford the price, vacation away from all trappings of modern society.

The story is slow, hot and humid, sort of Southern Gothic mixed with those horror films of the 30s set on remote and spooky islands (think Island of the Lost Souls), with strange characters. It’s suspense, a ghost story, monsters, and a slow burn to terror. It is layers of secrets, that once stripped away, petal by petal, reveal a frightening story old as time and yet, our possible future. It’s the Frankenstein baby made if they used the DNA of Invasion of Body Snatchers and mixed it with the Lost TV series along with those scary remote island horror flicks of the 30s. It just might give you pause the next time you take a trip to Hawaii or Tahiti.

I gave The Nightmarchers 4 sheep.

Reviewed by Pamela K. Kinney

About the Author:
J. Lincoln Fenn began her horror career in the 7th grade when she entertained her friends at a sleepover by telling them the mysterious clanking noise (created by the baseboard heater) was in fact the ghost of a woman who had once lived in the farmhouse, forced to cannibalize her ten children during a particularly bad winter. Strangely, it was the last slumber party she was allowed to have. 

Her debut novel, POE, won the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror and went on to become an Amazon bestseller. DEAD SOULS will be published in September 2016 by Gallery Books. The author grew up in New England and graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of New Hampshire. Currently she lives in Seattle with her family.

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